Ferdinando’s Focacceria Italiana Restaurant

Review by: Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

Palermo street-snacks in Brooklyn! Yes, in the Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, Ferdinando’s Focacceria Italiana Restaurant serves Sicilian specialties not commonly seen on this side of the Atlantic.

What to eat at Ferdinando’s Focacceria Italiana Restaurant in Brooklyn, NY

Their specialty is the panelle, a fried chickpea fritter. If you’re imagining falafel, the Middle Eastern chickpea fritter, you’re actually pretty far off. These flat fritters have none of that falafel taste. The flavor is mild and beany. The preferred way to enjoy them is inside a Panelle Special, which is a freshly-baked sesame-topped semolina roll stacked with a sheaf of chickpea fritters, a big cloud of sweet and creamy ricotta, and a sprinkle of sharp cheese. The combo is terrific, mild and very easy to appreciate on a first taste.

They make a similar sandwich with a potato fritter standing in for the chickpeas, and this is equally delicious. Or you can go for the works, combining the potatoes and chickpeas on one roll. They are all reminders of just how much can be done with so little – true country cooking.

The small menu features other items from Sicily: vastedda is like the panelle, but spleen replaces the fritters; these, perhaps, are not quite as readily accessible to first-timers. There are the rice ball fritters called arancini, and you can get such Sicilian classics as tripe, or pasta with sardines or cuttlefish ink. Not everything is as exotic: there are also familiar items like Bolognese and marinara sauce, veal parmigiana, and meatball parm heroes.

Ferdinando’s is a casual storefront with a counter up front, tables beyond, pressed tin ceiling, and even a courtyard out back. The folks who take care of you are sweet and encouraging. Prices are low. Ferdinando’s is filled with Sicilian/Brooklyn soul. What more could you ask of Roadfood?

What To Eat

Panelle Special


Ferdinando’s Focacceria Italiana Restaurant Recipes


What do you think of Ferdinando’s Focacceria Italiana Restaurant?

One Response to “Ferdinando’s Focacceria Italiana Restaurant”

Tes Rivera

January 28th, 2013

Ferdinando’s is the oldest Sicilian restaurant in New York City. A visit there is a trip back in time to when the the block served as waterfront marketplace to the docks, Carroll Gardens, and the surrounding neighborhoods. Union Street stretches through Grand Army Plaza/Prospect Park; Columbia Street through Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. The restaurant has survived generations of radical change to the neighborhood (currently strollers and hipsters) by simply remaining true to its roots. They served spleen before spleen was cool. Ferdinando’s is, and has always been, owned and operated by the same family. Frank Buffa, himself, greets visitors at the door. His staff is old school.

The panelles are heavenly, perfectly set off by the generous puff of fresh ricotta and grated Pecorino. You can count on the cold seafood salads to be fresh and well-balanced. I favor the polpo and frutti de mari. They’re cooked perfectly and dressed in a bright vinaigrette. The pasta con sarde is reliable comfort food made with home-jarred sardines.

The dining room has seen lots of wear, but that adds to the charm of its rich architectural detail (probably why Scorsese chose it as a location in the Departed). Heirloom tomatoes grow in the courtyard garden. Enjoy nice weather under the grapevine-laden arbor.


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